Read: Steven Lukes: Power a Radical View
February 1, 2007
Send Kurt a copy of today’s notes cause he won’t be here.
Begin w/ Nagel:
Nagel: basic approach to ethics, is huge in political and philo of mind.
Scanlon: political ob, major theory of moral and political philo
Dworkin: philo of law, colleague of Nagel, Law’s Empire, the nature of law,
interpretation of law, how do we interpret laws, constitution, judges… he attempts to
show that legal interpretation is just negating what the black letter law says.
Make sure the reading for each section is done prior to class, Dr. K, may actually use a
little Socratic method on us.
Background on Nagel:
The direction he takes on the foundation of ethics, moral principles place requirements
upon human action. They place rational requirements.
It would therefore be irrational for us to ignore these principles.
Ethics places demands upon us in a rational manner.
He conceives of ethics as a sub-discipline of psychology.
Pg 5 The motivational factor behind what they are doing.
Can a moral principle motivate us? N says that they are necessary for practicing rational
Altruism: selflessness, giving of oneself to others.
In order to practice altruism, one must think themselves as an individual (I), but must also
reciprocally acknowledge someone else. (very much like Fichte’s understanding from
Germ. Pol. Philo)
This allows N to show how one can be motivated by altruistic principles.
One has to look at themselves in a way that is not filtered from seeing things purely
through my own perspective.
This view raises initial problems.
Moral demands are inescapable.
We must be capable of being influenced by these motives.
N. How do we make moral demands, ethical demands, inescapable if we adopt the
following strategy, claim that everyone ought to adhere to certain principles, b/c those
principles are connected to some influence on us by, which all of us are capable of being
influenced in some way?
The problem w/ empirical science is that we can tell what is the case and what could have
been the case, but it can never tell me what must be the case.
Any explanation of basic ethical principles must provide some account of how we are
motivated to adhere to the principles. He has a broader view of motivational theory, it is
not simply empirical, this is why he delves into metaphysics a tad.
N: any norm or moral requirement, must have some “something” that motivates us.
Being motivated by these principles is a necessary requirement for rational behavior.
He is not suggesting any determinism.
He just says that the motive is as inescapable as the moral principle.